A Bombay HC case has led to allegations of corruption against Mumbai University

The Bombay HC allowed a foreign student who didn’t meet a Mumbai University PG course’s eligibility criteria to join.


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Team Careers360 | January 15, 2023 | 10:03 AM IST

By Rosamma Thomas

On December 1, 2022, Bombay High Court offered relief to a student from Nepal, Megha Puri, who had approached the court after being denied admission to an MA programme in Applied Psychology in Mumbai University. She had earlier been granted provisional admission and had even paid the fees before being refused.

Puri had applied for the course in April 2021, and received the admission offer in September; the letter granting her provisional admission noted that her admission was subject to the production of the necessary documents. After she paid her tuition fees of over Rs 1 lakh – foreign students pay substantially higher fees than Indian students – she was informed on November 26, 2021 that since her previous degree was in engineering, she did not fulfil the eligibility criteria. She contested this decision in court, claiming it was by then too late for her to apply elsewhere in that academic year.

She finally won in December. However, the case as well as the events preceding it, have raised questions about Mumbai University’s processes and led to criticism of the court’s intervention in strictly academic matters.

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Mumbai University case

The student’s lawyer argued that she attended applied psychology classes online as well as offline, and flew to Mumbai from Kathmandu despite the pandemic situation to continue her education. When she was abruptly informed that she did not meet the eligibility criteria, she wrote to the Vice Chancellor and approached the court.

On instructions from the court, a resolution was passed by the university on December 16, 2021, directing the head of the department of applied psychology to conduct an online aptitude test; if the student met the standards, she would be offered admission.

The student, in her petition in the high court, said that she was not informed of the results of that test. She was also disallowed from taking the first semester examination of the MA programme. The counsel representing the university argued in court that having studied psychology at the bachelor level was a mandatory requirement for admission to the MA programme, under the revised syllabus.

In May 2022, the high court directed the university to explore a possible solution. On court orders, the student was allowed to take the second semester examinations on June 1, 2022. The vice principal of the Kishinchand Chellaram Constituent College at Churchgate National Collegiate, meanwhile, offered to accommodate the student after she completed a 45-day bridge programme, once her aptitude test results were out.

The counsel for the university said the student had not responded to this offer; he added that courts should be circumspect in exercising power of judicial review in matters of academic policy, including admission criteria.

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In its order of December 1, the HC bench of Justices SV Gangapurwala and RN Laddha cited judgments from the Supreme Court to underline the fact that the student had taken an examination; that fact, the judgment held, cancelled out the ground of lack of eligibility for the course. Besides, during the arguments, the counsel for the university had said that the petitioner had cleared the aptitude test. On these grounds, the court quashed the email declining admission, and ordered the university to allow the petitioner to attend part 2 of the Master of Arts in Applied Psychology.

Professional course

Teachers at the university who did not wish to be named told this reporter that applied psychology is a professional course, and this student would, if she completes the degree programme, be in charge of patients. If she has not studied part 1 of the course, it would be difficult to bring her up to speed with part 2. This order is extremely difficult to implement, a faculty member explained.

There are also peculiar instances in this case that lawyers have commented upon – how could the university conduct an “aptitude test” for just one student? Such an unprecedented step has never been taken in the history of Mumbai University, founded in 1857. Eligibility criteria apply equally to a whole cohort of applicants. How could the court instruct a three-member university committee to conduct this test for just one student?

Nikhil Kamble, lawyer in the Bombay HC said, “It is unfortunate that while ordinary Indian students are denied admission, corrupt public university officials work for an elite class with political connections,” hinting at political connections that Careers360 couldn’t independently confirm.

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“The HC order in this case sets the wrong precedent, and will tarnish the record of one of the oldest universities in this country,” says Kamble, who has taken up this matter with authorities at the university. The fact that no action has been taken despite repeated complaints shows that the authorities are in violation of Section 9 of the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016. The section provides that the Chancellor may, suo motu or otherwise, call for explanation if information and records relating to the university are brought to his notice. Section 12, sub-section 6 of the Act also provides for deferring decisions that may not be in the interests of the university – this power too was not used, Kamble pointed out.

A faculty member who did not wish to be identified mentioned that since the university is now expected to raise its own resources, there is pressure to take in more foreign students, who pay higher fees. Meanwhile, over six lakh Indian students now study abroad, with many families availing loans to send children abroad, thus financing foreign.

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